Paired Leaves

Jennifer Habel
January 14, 2013
Jennifer Habel

I have not been refined in the furnace of affliction
as some have been, but have rather been preserved
with sugar than brine. . . .
            —Anne Bradstreet

From three thousand feet the bee smells flowers.
Milkweed thick with them 

in the west field. If I am glad the sun is down
(no reds, no purples), the moon will lift 

between dark pines. The bee’s leg enters
the flower. Pollen coats it, the leg slips free 

or can’t. Glycosides in the long paired
leaves strengthen the human heart

and make the monarch poison. I read about
the young mother’s anomalous right coronary artery 

(asymptomatic) my first night away
since the baby was born. Running expanded 

the pulmonary artery, squeezing the coronary ones;
the blood stopped. (It’s a wonderful world, 

to hell with it, said Frost.) All day my mind
ticked strange like a surviving spouse’s heart,

but in the morning I was a monarch
ready to fill her wings with blood. Driving
he told me his friend’s older sister changed
right in front of him. In the dim light of 

the motel room, putting her bikini on,
taking it off. Cups of flesh! Inverted chalices!

I wouldn’t ask if the nipples were the deep pink
of these buds. (I see five star arms 

where the petals fold back. I see milk pool
just before the baby latches.) Each night 

the widower climbs into his youngest son’s bed.
The heart stopped, right? his oldest asks.

She was always taking you outside, he’ll say
if necessary. Bringing things back. Pods, berries. 

A giant feather. I remember how bad it smelled.



Jennifer Habel has published poems in The Believer, Gulf Coast, The Southeast Review, Blakbird, LIT, Massachusetts Review, and other journals.

Click here to purchase Issue 02